Iraq: Groups urge release of jailed Iranian dissidents

1 10 2009
Rome, 30 Sept. (AKI) – Thirty-six Iranians jailed in northern Iraq since July must be immediately released, the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) dissident group and Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
The prisoners are reportedly in poor health and have entered their 65th day of a hunger strike over their continuing detention despite three rulings from a judge ordering their release without charge.
The PMOI says it fears the Iraqi government now intends to transfer the prisoners from a jail in the town of al-Khales, where they are currently detained, to an unknown location. The group, whose objective is the overthrow of the theocracy that has ruled Iran since its 1979 Revolution, claims the 36 jailed Iranian dissidents are the victims of a “vile plot” between the Iraqi and Iranian governments.
The 36 Iranian dissidents were detained in the town of al-Khales in late July after they and other residents of nearby Camp Ashraf were involved in violent clashes when it was attacked by Iraqi security forces. The refugee camp is home to over 3,000 Iranian dissidents. Eleven Camp Ashraf residents were killed and up to 500 others were injured in the clashes on 28-29 July, which the PMOI has described as a crime against humanity ordered by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei.
The PMOI claims the attack was carried out by special police under Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s control, with members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Iranian-trained Iraqi militia. Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the PMOI disarmed and the camp’s residents were given protected refugee status under the Geneva Conventions. The PMOI wants the US to secure the release of the 36 Iranians. The US handed in January handed responsibility for Camp Ashraf’s security to the Iraqi authorities.
“We call on US forces in Iraq, under our agreement, to secure the release of the 36 hostages, being held without any justification. “We also call on the United Nations secretary general, the UN high commissioner for human rights and the UN’s office in Iraq to intervene urgently,” said the PMOI in a statement. Despite the judge’s ruling and the men’s lawyers’ pleas, the local police at al-Khales continue to refuse to release the detainees and have provided no reasons or legal justification for their continuing detention, Amnesty noted. “Amnesty International now urges the Iraqi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the 36 Camp Ashraf residents,” it said in a statement urging Maliki to intervene urgently to free the prisoners and to investigate the case.
Amnesty said it remains opposed to any forcible return of Iranians, including the 36 detainees or other Camp Ashraf residents, to Iran, where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations, including torture and execution. Despite demands from the PMOI, the Iranian dissident group is still listed as a terrorist organisation in the United States and was only removed from the European Union’s terror list earlier this year after a long legal battle. The group is committed to overthrowing the Iranian government but says it has not carried out any armed attacks since 2001.


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